FAQ: Mastering the System - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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FAQ: Mastering the System

FAQ: Mastering the System

FAQ school system

Prepare for back to school with these insider tips

Whether relocating or living local, jiving with school calendars, student sports, class clubs and extracurricular activities is key to family balance — not to mention what type of school to enroll students. While public schools teach core curriculum without religious education, parochial institutions are private educators that incorporate moral and spiritual teachings. Charter schools serve students who excel in particular academics and have specific educational objectives, with advanced classes not offered at other establishments.

Finally, remote learning, which has become a mainstream teaching method since COVID-19, is now more popular than ever, with many parents preferring to school from home. Whatever the type of school, Greater Tampa Bay has dozens of school format options in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough school districts to meet every child’s need.


Moving to a new place and trying to figure out all the steps a family needs to take can be challenging. To make things a bit easier, here are some answers to frequently asked questions to guide new residents through the student enrollment process.

I am moving to Greater Tampa Bay with two preschool-age children. Where and how do I enroll them in school? 

Florida offers a Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program to all children who reside in the Sunshine State. The free program encourages parents to enroll preschool-age children so they can practice pre-reading, pre-math, language and social skills to augment their future kindergarten education. To register children ages 4 and 5, visit vpkhelp.org

My child has no preschool training, and I must register them in kindergarten. How can I find out how to enroll them or even what school to consider? 

Florida does not require children under 6 years old to attend kindergarten or preschool. By law, all children ages 6 and up must attend school the entire academic year. However, students who are 5 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the schoolyear can be enrolled.

To enroll a child into a Greater Tampa Bay school, certain documents are required, including a birth certificate or passport, a Florida record of immunization, evidence of a medical exam completed 12 months before school admission and proof residency for the school district provided by the parent or guardian. 

Our family has a strong faith and we want our children to learn more about it in school. What are my choices?  

There are so many faith-based schools in Greater Tampa Bay, with many Catholic elementary and high schools making up the long list that includes all grade levels from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. While GTB has a long list of Catholic elementary and high schools to choose from, including institutions in Brandon, Lakeland and Safety Harbor, the region also offers Christian, Islamic and Jewish schools that provide a quality education and teach the history of the diverse faiths.

For a list of Christian schools, go here.

For a list of Islamic schools, go here.

For a list of Jewish schools, go here.

I want my child to benefit from private education, but I’m not religious, and I don’t want to send them to a faith-based school. What other private schools does Greater Tampa Bay offer? 

Many schools in GTB offer private education without a faith-based curriculum. Take, for example, Academy at the Lakes in Tampa, which provides a college-preparatory curriculum with a low teacher-to-student ratio. In addition, Beach Park School promotes Montessori education, encouraging self-directed activities and collaborative play, teaching students a less traditional and more creative learning model. A long list of non-religious private schools in Tampa can be found here.

How do I know that my child will receive a good education in Greater Tampa Bay? 

It is a fact that Greater Tampa Bay school districts are some of the top in the region. Ask Niche, the nationally recognized education review site. According to Niche, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties rate high in in academics, diversity, clubs and activities and college prep. 

What is the school transportation system like? Will I have to drive my child to and from extracurricular activities? 

Based on the Florida Board of Education, any student living less than two miles from an assigned school is not eligible for transportation. However, if a student lives within two miles of the school with hazardous conditions, including crossing a major freeway, transportation is provided. School transportation for extracurricular activities varies depending on the district and school. 

Can my child attend a school outside of my address zone or district where I live? 

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The Florida Board of Education allows controlled open enrollment through the state. The program permits students to attend a school outside of their address zone or district. Of course, controlled open enrollment is based on the school’s capacity, changing each academic year. If approved, the parent or guardian of the student must provide transportation to and from the respective school.  

What is the selection of charter schools like in Tampa? 

The selection of charter schools in GTB is lengthy, offering parents a plethora of choices. While some charter schools educate all grade levels, others only serve specific grades. Some of the most notable charter schools, according to Niche, respectively include Dayspring Academy in Pasco County, Plato Academy in Pinellas County and Lutz Preparatory School in Hillsborough County.  

My child has special needs. How do I know they will get the extra attention they need in Tampa? 

Greater Tampa Bay has many schools that meet special education needs. While the Broach School and the Florida Autism Center of Excellence Tampa offer programs for students with learning disabilities and autism from kindergarten through 12th grade, Focus Academy in Temple Terrace educates special needs students between the ages of 14 and 22 years old.  

My child is considered gifted and talented. What kind of advanced placement curriculum do the school districts offer, and are there dual enrollment classes for local colleges? 

Greater Tampa Bay offers several programs and advanced placement learning for gifted and talented students that continue to challenge them academically. In addition, advanced students in GTB can take dual credits, allowing students to start their college career before graduating high school.  

Can I homeschool my child here?  

Homeschooling and remote learning are allowed under the Florida Board of Education throughout the Sunshine State. Therefore, upon relocating, it is essential to research the homeschooling and remote learning programs offered in any Greater Tampa Bay school districts located in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

By Angela Underwood 

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